Web designers use all types of files to create sites, from .html to .css to .php and dozens of others. How files are created and saved will affect how they are processed; a .css file will not have the same capabilities of a .html file, and vice versa.

Pages are the most common inclusion in a web site, simply because pages contain the visible content of that site. Further files (such as images and other media) will most-likely be accessed from pages, through hyperlinks, embeds, and the like.

html icon page.html

Hypertext Markup Language (HTML or HTM)

HTML is the standard language known by all web designers and developers. HTML provides the structure of the page, using elements to create headings, paragraphs, lists, tables, links, etc. Properly-laid-out HTML is designed to enhance accessibility, and provide structured content outside of decorative styling.

  • Easy-to-learn, free or low-cost.
  • Widely-used; standard practice.
  • Extensive; has a large library and support community.
  • Requires a browser to correctly interpret the code.
  • HTML Lexicon is in American English, and may require extra interpretation for non-English speakers.
css icon page.css

Cascading Style Sheet (CSS)

CSS is used to control how the page looks and functions. CSS is used to “decorate” the site; this is, provide layout, color, interactive elements, fonts, and other formatting. While HTML provides the contents of the page, CSS specifies to the browser how the site will look. Using a stylesheet greatly speeds up development time, as a single sheet can affect all pages in the site.

  • Speed and consistency in styling pages site-wide.
  • Supported by nearly all browsers.
  • Extensive; has a large library and support community.
  • CSS syntax is different from HTML, and requires users to learn both languages.
  • Interpreted differenly across browsers; requires testing.
php icon page.php

Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP)

While we won't get into PHP, you've likely seen or heard of PHP files. PHP is a widely-used, open-source scripting language which is well-suited for use in web design as it can be combined with HTML. A server-side language, PHP can generate dynamic pages, modify databases, encrypt data, and many other processes HTML cannot do alone. In fact, it is the core of many services, such as WordPress and Facebook.

  • Moderately easy-to-learn, free or low-cost.
  • Can collect data, like from site forms.
  • Can control user-access.
  • Limited control.
  • Can take time to master frameworks.

Neat-O Most file types and their languages are designed to work together, not singularly, and need to be directed to each other to function properly.

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